For years now, online travel agents (OTAs) have had a monopoly on the online travel industry.
Well-known OTAs, like Expedia, are often go-to destinations for people who are looking to book flights, accommodations, and transportation in one convenient location.
Local hotels struggle to beat OTAs at the SEO game, and even other travel search sites find it tough to compete. But now, it seems these powerful travel industry giants may have met their match.
Metasearch sites – in particular, Google – are gaining ground on OTAs, and innovating in the process.
In fact, 28% of independent lodging properties (and 31% of hotels/motels) in Europe rank Google Hotel Finder in their top two most-effective marketing channels. That’s according to research from a Phocuswright study, co-sponsored by SiteMinder.
Google is (also) promoting hotel loyalty programs
Trends show that travellers are highly interested in hotel loyalty programs, particularly those that offer high-value rewards such as a free night’s stay or an included meal.
Expedia capitalised on this by launching a direct booking push with the Red Lion hotel chain, noting that there are added benefits for customers who sign up with the corporate chain’s loyalty program.
Those who sign up with the loyalty program through Expedia not only get the extra perks available through the Red Lion chain, but they also get added rewards from Expedia. Ultimately, this encourages dual loyalty amongst dedicated travellers.
Google has caught up – and is now using its search site to encourage travellers to sign up for hotel loyalty rewards programs, showcasing when there are additional savings or benefits available for travellers.
There’s also a search filter for “deals”, which gives travellers an opportunity to view only the hotel results that offer extra deals that may be valuable for them.
Google is getting predictive
Experienced travellers know that rates for both hotels and flights change frequently, and there might always be an upcoming deal that could save them even more money.
Noting this, metasearch sites and OTAs are now offering forecasting tools that allow travellers to decide if now is the right time to buy.
Google, for example, recently launched an airfare forecasting service that gives travellers an idea of whether or not they are getting the best rate possible for the flight they are looking to book.
Bargain travellers, in particular, enjoy this feature as it allows them to make an informed decision about a supposed deal.
In any case, hotels are still in a place of power
These changes put hotels in a position of power. Hoteliers can use both OTAs and metasearch sites to improve their reach and broadcast their rates to a global audience.
They also can use these sites in order to gain exposure, while hoping that they can get travellers to click on their websites and book directly with them.